Back to School · Changing Seasons · main dishes · Motherhood · Paleo · Wrestling with Reality

Death (or Saying Goodbye) and Life (or Saying Hello), and Chorizo Spiced Pork Roast

 

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”
2 Corinthians 5:17

Dear Joey,

It is fitting that school starts in the Fall: the classic symbol of change that is both beautiful and terrifying. Fall is death put on glorious display, isn’t it?

Ok so fine—a new school term doesn’t bring death, exactly. Forgive me for being dramatic. Most folks probably think of it as a fresh start, a reset button that puts things back to normal in an instant. But it does put an end to the carefree days of summer, and there is mourning for the loss of the freedom summer represents, isn’t there?

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The words of Paul are ringing in my ears this week: the old has gone and the new is here indeed. Death and life and renewal and starting over—all these things are vying for my attention these days, and all of them from a whole host of places, not the least of which is watching Mia put the final dividing line between herself and her babyhood while Addie insists on losing more teeth and inching her way to my own height. This day has been a long time coming, and last fall brought with it a sense that life as we loved it was dying a slow death, and I wasn’t ready to face it. But life changed anyway, didn’t it? And here we are back at the start of another school year, saying hello to a new chapter in the life of our family. I feel more prepared for it this time because I know this fall season really is a fresh start.

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The girls seemed to feel the same way. Waving goodbye to us on the first day didn’t pose a problem for either of them. We walked them to the playground and helped them line up and followed them to their classrooms because we were sure they needed us. Mia tromped off with the rest of her Kindergarten class without so much as a backward glance at us. Addie saw tears glaze my eyes and bent down to hug me, saying “Don’t worry Mama, I’ll come home after school. I promise.” Saying goodbye to each other on the second day of school was harder. The girls’ pained eyes poked holes in my heart as I eased my fingers from their grip and urged them forward into the unfamiliar, terrifying reality of change. The idea of going to a new school this year seemed exciting right up until the moment they actually had to let go of my hands and walk themselves to the playground without us. In a flurry of tears and tentative hearts, they walked away from me, seemingly unsure of themselves. I waved goodbye to them as bravely as I could, wishing I could nestle myself in a corner somewhere, watching and waiting, ready to intervene on their behalf the moment trouble comes.

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I couldn’t help feeling this way, of course. I am a normal mother with a natural need to protect, nurture, and sustain her children. They couldn’t help feeling insecure any more than I could help wishing I could make everything better in an instant. Of course they felt timid and unsure: everything was new. The people, the buildings, the rules, the uniforms—even their backpacks and lunch boxes and shoes were new. Why would I ever expect them to feel completely confident to take all the newness on themselves? In that moment of goodbye, I couldn’t do much else but smile through my tears and hope it helped them understand that new isn’t necessarily bad, and is often, in fact, actually good.

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We forget that new isn’t always bad, don’t we? I sure do, especially because it seems that when something is new, it renders something else old. Old things pass away, and death is difficult, so managing our feelings about losing the things we love gets tricky. We learn this lesson every year when summer ends and the leaves turn color and quietly settle into their final resting place. Soon fall slips into a quiet winter, a time of mourning that does eventually melt away, waking to the brilliant bloom of Spring. The point? The promise of new life hinges on old things passing away, but saying goodbye isn’t the end. New life lingers just around the corner. Don’t you think we ought to say hello?

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This is happening in other places in my life this season, too. It is in the reality of living in this new place, of course, and the reality of how it feels to know that part of our story has ended. It’s showing up in friendships and projects and plans and food and any semblance of normalcy that I had before my health issues took an uncomfortable turn over the summer. Admittedly, it felt like this season held the end of life as I knew it. Control over my health slipped even further from my grip, I spent the summer sequestered at home managing my symptoms and squeezing in appointments and going in for blood draws and scopes and ultrasounds—and came out the other end with a few more questions to answer, as well as the relief that comes with a doctor who confirms my suspicions: that colitis is casting its sickly spell on my insides. It came as no surprise that I have a disease that needs my attention, and walking away from his office this summer, prescription in hand, left me wondering how to manage it in the long term. Clearly, gluten is a known problem. But it’s not the only problem these days, and the best way I know how to deal with the unpleasant reality is to say goodbye to simple gluten freedom. Embracing a new way of living isn’t easy or fun, exactly–but I’m encouraged, because the promise of renewal lingers just around the corner, sad as I may be about the reality I face.

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So this season, I’m doing my best to lift my eyes above my circumstance and say, “What’s next?” with the sort of grace that only comes from acknowledging loss and greeting a new reality with hope. What other choice do I have? Modeling this for the girls helps me believe things will get better: I leave them with a kiss and a smile as they skip off into a new school day without the support system to whom they are accustomed, but I assure them they’re going to be alright. This is new, but this is good, I say as I give them one last squeeze. And when I wave goodbye to those smiling little darlings as they head off to their day, it reminds me that we can’t bask in the beauty of anywhere new if we dig our feet in and refuse to leave familiarity behind. So by the grace of God, and with His help, we walk, together, waving goodbye to the old and hello to the new in one hope-filled gesture.

Love,

Scratch

Chorizo Spiced Pork Roast

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This is one of my go-to meals, meaning this: when I run out of creative steam to keep dinner new and exciting, I give myself a break, pull out my crock pot, and get a batch of this pork going. It’s fast, easy, and versatile (and inexpensive, to boot!). Plus (and this could be the most compelling reason why I love it so much) everyone around my kitchen table cheers for it. I make it for friends more often than they appreciate, I’m sure, but no one ever seems to mind. (In fact, most of them end up asking for the recipe, so if that is you? Here you go.) I’m especially fond of it now because as I transition to a Paleo lifestyle, I am thankful to have so many well-loved recipes that work within that framework. Shred it and fold it into corn tortillas (if you aren’t Paleo), lay it atop a baked sweet potato, or pile it high on top of a bed of cauliflower rice. Drizzle with some hot sauce and sprinkle on some cilantro and you’re golden. (Add more spice blend if you want a little bit more heat, but as written, this recipe does not wallop your tongue with a punch of heat.) The picture above shows a double recipe, which is just as easy as a single recipe (which is written below). Just double the ingredients–the cook time remains the same. And don’t skip the red wine vinegar! It makes the other flavors come alive.

Ingredients:
  • One 2 pound pork loin roast
  • 2 Tablespoons Chorizo Spice Blend (recipe below)
  • 1 medium onion–any color you choose, but I tend to use yellow
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
Method:

Spray Crock Pot with non-stick cooking spray (such as Trader Joe’s Coconut Oil Spray). Slice the onion and lay it on the bottom of the crock pot. Then, wash the pork roast, pat it dry, and lay it on top of the bed of onions. Sprinkle a thick layer of the Chorizo Spice Blend on top of the roast, then pat it to cover as much of the roast as you can. Carefully pour 1/4 cup of water into the bottom of the crock pot, around the perimeter of the roast. Do the same for the red wine vinegar, then put the lid on.

Cook on high for 4 hours; then turn to low and cook for an additional 2 hours (alternatively, cook it for 8 hours on low). Once the meat is fall-apart-tender, shred and toss it with its own juices and the onions and serve.

Chorizo Spice Blend

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This recipe is based on Diane Sanfilippo’s recipe in Practical Paleo, 1st Edition, which is super informative and helps make taking the plunge into Paleo not quite so daunting (Thank you Diane! You’re a life saver, kinda in the literal sense.) I keep a jar of this spice mix in the pantry at all times because I love it so very much. I’m sure you will too.

Ingredients:
  • 4 Tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 Tablespoons paprika
  • 2 Tablespoons onion powder
  • 1 Tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 Tablespoon sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
Method:

Measure all spices into a jar with a lid and shake until evenly distributed.

Back to School · What I Love Lately

What I Love Lately, Back to School Edition (Volume 2)

Dear Joey,

No rest for weary travelers–remember how driving home from the airport took longer than the flight itself? Welcome home indeed. An empty fridge and bare cupboards even clamored for my attention early the next day. Thank God for my mom, who whisked me out the door and assured me the Goobies would be just fine with her for awhile.

So what does a harried mother do when she finds herself with a free afternoon? I went to Costco, of course, because when do I ever get to meander through it unencumbered? Usually I strap the Goobies in that two-seater cart and frantically push that thing through the aisles like a contestant on Supermarket Sweep. To have time to think about what I’m putting in the cart? Sigh.

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My favorite find this time is Autumn’s Gold Grain Free Granola. Cue the chorus to sing hallelujah because 1) YUM and 2) grains and I aren’t getting along at the moment, so stumbling upon easy, grain free morning fare is a big deal. The only trouble with it is this: it contains sunflower seeds, which means that I have to be careful while eating a bowl of it while Emery is around. He’s so allergic to sunflower seeds that I almost didn’t buy the bag at all, but I go out of my way to stock the pantry with foods everyone else enjoys, foods that meet everyone else’s dietary needs, but how often do I buy something that I really want? (I can’t even lean on my beloved Orgain these days because it’s got so much brown rice protein in it.) I hesitated for a half a second in before I tossed the bag into my cart and ultimately decided feeding myself well is just as important as feeding these Goobies well. I can keep Emery away from the granola, and I can explain that it would make him sick if he tried it. He gets that well enough now. Plus, the Goobies’ pediatrician has a son with a peanut allergy just like Mia has, and she and her husband keep a stash of peanut butter hidden way in the back of the pantry, far from his prying eyes. If she feels ok about doing that, then don’t you think this is probably ok too? (Pray for us as you walk out the door every day. We need it.)

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This is especially important because school is starting in four days. Mornings will be just as harried and hassled as ever, but this time around my own breakfast options are giving me pause. We all know how quickly this mama’s mood turns sour if I don’t have something in my tummy soon after I wake, and Lord help us all if I have to fry eggs every morning. Sure, I whirl bananas and strawberries into coconut creamy oblivion, but sometimes I crave crunch–and something mindless, especially since I know how much mental energy I’ll need to expend just getting the Goobie girls ready to greet their own days.

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Last year, getting one child dressed and ready in uniforms was an every day nightmare. Addie spent her first five years in t shirts, tutus and leggings with not a button or zipper to be found. Teaching Addie how to actually dress herself in real clothes didn’t occur to me until a few mornings before school started when I filled her closet with khaki skirts, plaid jumpers, polo shirts and button up blouses. I did what any mom would do–I panicked and forced her to bear with me as I forced her to learn how to zip and unzip those stiff, tricky outfits. She was eager to learn because it made her feel grown up, and she did love those cute little plaid jumpers. But it wasn’t long before the business of getting dressed turned into a frantic hassle, and we lost our tempers with each other over misplaced biker shorts that had to be worn under the jumper every single morning. Don’t get me started on selling her on the khaki skorts–she pouted just about every time she had to wear them, except for on Chapel days when she knew the school had their say. Getting two school-aged kid dressed in uniforms seemed impossible from my vantage point last year.

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This year I sung a merry little song of thanksgiving when I stumbled upon Old Navy’s uniform skirts that already have shorts built right into them, without any zippers or buttons to fool with. (Uniform pants are another story, but it’s far too warm to worry about long pants yet. We’ve got time.) Each girl got two of them because investing in making mornings easier for all of us is money well spent. I may have bought the skirts, but really, I was buying myself some sanity. Lord knows I will need it because Mia is already boycotting the things. Just trying them on make her pout. Don’t fret, Rach, I keep telling myself, These skirts will make life easier. (If I keep telling myself that, will it really be true?)

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I got another batch of Emily Press Labels because I’m all about taking the easy way out these days. An afternoon with a sharpie in hand while surrounded by a stack of school supplies isn’t my idea of time well spent–but these labels change all that. I stick them on lunch gear, water bottles, pencil boxes, and scissors, inside of shoes and inside of jackets, and I even stick them on chapel shirts because they won’t wash away in the laundry. These things are legit.

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Speaking of investing in my own sanity: job charts. We’ve waited for years to implement chores, waiting for just the right moment to put those babies to use (the charts. Not the kids. Ahem.) I think a lot about how Proverbs urges us to “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6, NIV), and try to apply it in a practical, life skill sort of way. We’ve chosen jobs that train the kids to do things we expect them to do every day (get dressed, brush teeth, clean up their plates, etc.) and train them to do things we hope will develop into good habits (making their beds, developing a love for reading, lending a hand with another person’s chore). We require, but we don’t push. We let the job chart be the boss, and for each job done, they earn a star, and each star earns them 5 cents (except for Emery, who earns a penny for each chore completed). If they don’t do the task? No star, and no nagging from us because we let the money do the talking. At the end of the week we count up their stars and fill their banks. The good news is the Goobies all respond to it. The expectation is clear, the reward is valuable.

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One of their jobs is Independent Reading for 20 minutes. I wasn’t convinced this was a good “job” exactly, except that it instilled a new love of reading in both girls (but most especially Addie). The girl craves alone time just like I do, but she’s not great about seeking it out for herself yet. The first day I enforced reading time, I ignored the protests and handed her a copy of Piper Green and the Fairy Tree, the first in a new chapter book series for early readers. Wouldn’t you know that 20 minutes later she was engrossed in the book, laughing out loud, and not ready for reading time to be over? Piper Green was an instant friend, and Addie soared through the first two books in a snap and is anxiously awaiting book three to come in the mail. Independent Reading? Totally worth it. (Mia loved it too, but it wasn’t such a hard sell for a girl who already plops herself down on her bed, book open wide and reading. Her current series pick? The Adventures of Sophie Mouse).

And with that, I’ll say goodbye for now. I just saw the time and realized I’ve got to usher these Goobies off to school today to meet their teachers, and if I don’t get moving, we’ll start those harried, frenzied mornings a few days too early (and I don’t need that kind of stress).

Love,
Scratch

 

Changing Seasons · Growing and Changing · Motherhood

Like Summer’s Last Sunset

11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet[a] no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live.”

–Ecclesiasties 3:11-12

Dear Joey,

Low and slow has been our mantra these past couple of weeks and I am not looking forward to trading it in for fast and frenzied. This summer I have been riding the roller coaster that comes with dealing with flare ups, some days feeling pretty decent and others wishing I could just stay in bed all day long and let the Goobies sort the day out themselves. In some ways, school can’t start fast enough because the sheer amount of energy it takes to keep up with all three of them all day long is more than I have in reserve. I’ve relished these stress-free days with them, but goodness, I’m thankful school is just another week away.

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Then again, I’m torn up about it. How can summer possibly be over? It flew, as it always does, and I am not sure how so many days spent at home turned into a blur of summertime memories. We kept busy these past weeks, for sure, but for the most part we spent our days here at home, getting accustomed to a slower, somewhat lonesome life. The girls joined forces against me anytime I suggested we get in the car and go explore our new surroundings, insisting they preferred to just stay home and play Barbies. I let them win most of the time because I didn’t really want to venture far from home anyway because of the not-so-fun games my tummy is playing with me. In hindsight, I wonder if they were sulking because they missed their friends so much and knew it wasn’t easy to just pop over to see them anymore.

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We rallied around our big airplane ride last week, fueled by excitement to climb aboard an airplane and make our way to Pepaw & Grandma Lori’s house–and what a fun trip that was–except for the heavy, sticky heat, which I did not love. But I did love the people and the pace and the way land was empty and green, like a comfy blanket spread out for a picnic, inviting us to kick our shoes off and relax a little. Oppressive as the heat was, being somewhere else entirely aired out the stuffy places in the kids’ souls, freshening their perspective in the process.

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By the time we got home, I was spent. Vacation zaps the energy right out of me. Does it do that to you, too? But there is no such thing as a post-vacation sabbatical, at least not with three kids in tow. The sun still rose every morning and invited the kids to come out and play, and I begrudgingly got up with them and greeted the day with a steaming cup of coffee and a long to do list. Tired as I was, I started running the moment our plane touched down and haven’t stopped until now. There were doctors appointments and sick kids and BBQs to both throw and attend and Sunday School to teach and school supplies to buy and kids to outfit for the upcoming semester. I haven’t stopped until just this moment.

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It is quiet in the house now. The only sound I hear is the scratching of my own mental checklist being ticked off as I recount the day’s activity. It’s barely August and summer seems to have ended already. The week leading up to school is a flurry of activity that leaves me already missing all those lazy summer days that seem to never end, like a summer sun that lingers in the sky well after bedtime, until suddenly, almost without warning, it’s gone.

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Addie broke down in tears today just after we finished picking out school shoes, just the two of us. She held my hand and skipped alongside me, content to be quiet and near as we wound our way through the shoe store, until suddenly she flung her arms around me and held me tight, her voice quivering as it eeked out her secret: that she wanted to stay a little girl forever. She doesn’t feel ready for summer to be over either. The immediate future frightens her, as if she’s unconvinced she’s ready to do the big girl things she’ll be expected to do once school starts next week. Putting on a brave face and brushing it off as typical first-day-of-school jitters won’t cut it with her. She doesn’t want the sun to set on summer, on childhood.

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I can’t blame her. I tease those Goobies all the time, squeezing them tight and making them promise to never grow up, to always stay little enough for me to scoop them up into my arms and nibble on their chubby little cheeks. The girls’ squeals of delight faded without my permission, and now they huff, “Oh, Mama, I have to grow up” and we giggle and hug and I can’t take it. And then out of nowhere Addie realized she is growing up and it caught her off guard and makes her want to stop inching closer to the big girl she once longed to be. Without warning, she realized that childhood really is temporary.

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I held her close and stroked her hair right and let her be the one to let go. I didn’t want to rush her. It seems I’m always rushing her. She let go and looked me in my eyes as I admitted I used to feel the same way right before school started. Her eyes softened at that, and her grip loosened a bit as I told her she would always be my little girl. Just like Summer gradually fades into Fall, childhood slowly shifts into into adulthood. She didn’t have to hurry or make herself sick with worry; there was no rush. The end of childhood will come like summer’s last sunset: gentle and glorious both, when the time is right.

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The sun will set on summer eventually, but not today. School will start soon, but summer will linger for a little while longer.  Watching these kids grow up breaks my heart and puts it back together again, changing me and creating something new in the process, and my very being is a mosaic made of those fractured, beautiful pieces.

Love,

Scratch

Allergy Friendly · Dairy Free · Dips and Sauces · Friendship · Side Dishes

Our People, and Summertime Fruit Dip

Dear Joey,

One of the hardest parts about moving was putting distance between ourselves and our people. But one of the easiest parts about moving is being close to our other people again. But my heart is divided because to be there means being with those people. To be here means being with these people. I love them all.

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There are people here, there are people there–shoot, we have people all over the place. We have people right across town, over the hills, up the valley in Napa and down the road in San Diego; we have people in the Midwest and people up North and down South and people all close enough to the Atlantic to go for a quick dip if the mood struck them. Our people are everywhere.

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But distance makes it difficult to see them very often–even the ones across town–and proximity matters when it comes to building friendships. It’s the people nearby that we end up living our lives with. Friendship is forged in the trenches of the daily, and enough small talk over time builds into something much bigger. Strangers turn into people we trust enough to pick our kids up from school in a pinch, and before we know it, they’re the people we live with, lean on, and love. It’s hard to say goodbye to that sort of security, even harder to start over.

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When I think about all our people, I wonder which ones will dissolve into a fuzzy memory as the years continue to slip by and which ones will remain a fixture in our hearts and home. Whose kids will our Goobies remember growing up with? Which ones will eek their way into their hearts and become their people? Who will we call at midnight when an emergency jerks us out of sleep? Which ones will hop on a plane if tragedy strikes? Who will show up to wave goodbye if our story leads us elsewhere and we move farther away than just across the hills? Who would pick up the phone at 10pm to settle an argument over cult classic movies and laugh with us as we bicker over whose favorite nostalgic movie was more important in the scheme of things: Mall Rats or Shag: The Movie?

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People move, and people move on. Out of sight, out of mind because what’s right in front of us demands our attention more than keeping up with people who aren’t in our immediate, day-to-day circle. The demands on our time shout loudly above the need of our hearts–to connect–and sometimes, friendships falter because of it. Keeping up with all the people all the time is hard. I wish I could be in both places (or really, all the places), all the time. I can’t, of course, but I think about all the people all the time. And I also wonder what new people are out there ahead of us, waiting for us to open our circle and extend our hands to them.

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Maybe that’s why we made the hour long drive to see our not-so-far-away people to swim and grill and indulge in their hospitality, pretending we’re far away and on vacation together. Maybe that’s why we keep asking our local people to come play at a moment’s notice, grilling and letting kids play outside until well after bedtime. Maybe that’s why I’ve made this fruit dip so many times this summer: when I’ve felt displaced, unsettled, and uncertain about where to plant my heart, this dip steadies me. Some people look at old pictures of the people they love (I seldom remember to snap them); others pick up the phone and call (I always feel like I’d be an inconvenience), but me? I cook because making recipes like this one is like grabbing the hand of an old friend while extending the other hand to a newer one, and I am safe, balanced right there between them both.

Love,

Scratch

Summertime Fruit Dip (GF/DF/NF)

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When one of our people came to visit this summer, it just felt right to whip up a batch of fruit dip–a creamy, dreamy wonder to which she introduced me well over ten years ago (thanks Felicia!). I couldn’t make her dip the conventional way (with regular old cream cheese), but I found a way to make a dairy free version that fooled my own mother. I’ve made it several times since that early summer morning well over a month ago now and one thing proves true: everyone loves it (not just the kids: it’s become a guilty pleasure among adults in our circle who tend to have difficulty with self-control around this stuff.) I recommend the Trader Joe’s brand Vegan Cream Cheese because I’m pretty much devoted to its clean, non-vegan flavor, but you could certainly substitute other brands that are accessible nationwide (such as Daiya), or just use regular cream cheese if your people don’t have issues with dairy. If you use another brand, taste and tweak as needed until the end result suits your fancy. 

Ingredients:
  • 1-8 oz. tub Vegan Cream Cheese (such as Trader Joe’s)
  • 1-7 oz. tub Jet Puffed Marshmallow Fluff
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
Method:

Whisk together all ingredients until fully combined. Chill for an hour or so to help firm it back up again. Serve with an assortment of fruit (strawberries, pineapple and cantaloupe are our favorites).

 

Dips and Sauces · Eat Those Veggies · Faith Journey · Growing and Changing

Peace, Plenty, and Zucchini Hummus

12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

-Philippians 4:12-13 (NIV)

Dear Joey,

Emery doesn’t ask to go home anymore. In the first several weeks after finally saying goodbye to that empty shell of a house on the other side of the hills, he wandered around this new house perplexed, unsure why we were sticking around so long, and wondering why we hadn’t gone home yet. “Where’s Bubba’s house?” he’d ask. “I go to Bubba’s house.”  No, bud–this is our house now, we’d say, and his quizzical eyes questioned ours. It broke my heart every time. And so, he walked in endless circles around here for weeks, disoriented and trying to figure it all out.

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The girls were quicker to understand the idea that once we waved goodbye to that little house on Broadmoor, we wouldn’t be going back. There were tears, but lots of giggles too. They thought it was pretty funny that all their stuff ended up in Papa & Nyome’s house, saying that it wasn’t their home, and unpacking their dolls and dresses here didn’t make any sense. I made light of it all, of course, telling them this year is a fun adventure, like a long vacation while we wait for our new house. In the meantime, they settle in a little more each day, and their new room becomes more their own and less the room I slept in when I was a little girl.

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Still, Addie sometimes sighs in the middle of a lazy afternoon and confesses she misses our old house, and then also says she misses her new house too. It’s sorrow and longing, clearly, missing what was and looking forward to what will be. Me too, I whisper through tears, and I scoop her up into a hug and she lets me hold her longer than usual. I ask her if she’s unhappy here, and she perks up and says, “Oh no, I’m happy. It’s fun here. I just miss our own house.” Living with her grandparents is cool and fun and cushy and all, but in spite of all that, she still keeps her eyes fixed on what she hopes for. Addie makes a universal truth so easy to understand: that this place is temporary and life here is fleeting at best. She is learning how to be content with what is, while still hoping for something isn’t. I think we are all learning that lesson.

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In the meantime, she’s adjusting. We all are. Addie still gets teary-eyed sometimes, Mia still corrects me whenever I happen to say “Ok Goobies, we’re going home now(“No–we’re going to Papa & Nyome’s house, Mama”), and every so often Emery asks where his old house is. But he doesn’t wander around confused anymore; instead, he runs with purpose and a sense of urgency unique to rambunctious little boys, living out the promise of adventure we’ve been preaching for months. As for me, I spend my time trying to make things functional and familiar enough in hopes of making these Goobies feel like we really do belong here.

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And so, we’ve gotten busy with the business of getting on with life. We eat fluffy scrambled eggs and piles and piles of sun-kissed strawberries around the same kitchen table we’ve always eaten around, this time surrounded by the in & out and to & fro of grandparents. Pajama clad, we tumble out into the backyard to feed the animals, then we weed, prune, water and pick. The girls and I pop tomatoes in our mouths, twist zucchini from the vine, and plunk velvety green beans into our garden baskets while Emery drives his yellow cozy cab back and forth, back and forth.

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Next we scurry off to swim lessons and play at the park and somehow manage to squeeze in a gymnastics lesson every Monday afternoon. After lunch I finally squeeze in a shower while the girls learn the discipline of quiet reading (and learn to love getting lost in a book). Then we ride bikes and play Scrabble and Candyland and Checkers; we come up with a thousand ways to use up every glorious bit of our summertime harvest, and slurp popsicles while the sun starts to slip under its covers for the night.

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There’s so much good all around us, both familiar and brand new at the same time. I’m learning how to be content with it. There are a million reasons why this season is sweet and beautiful and lovely and right, but there are just as many lies that twist those truths and tempt me toward jealousy and discontentment. I’m learning to ignore those voices, the voices of self-importance and jealousy that taunt me, saying my life isn’t good because I’m back here in the place where I grew up, again. 

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We spend a lot of time in the backyard, mainly because Emery is desperate to get outside practically from the moment he wakes up. Once we’re out there, I bide my time by tending to the garden, feeding the zucchini, pruning the tomatoes, and picking green beans, all of which had been doing well, happy in the place they’re planted and producing beautiful fruit. This week, though, I noticed the green bean bush is tangled and droopy with the weight of itself. I bent down low and looked beneath the cover of big, shady leaves to find that the well-established vines had grown thick and twisted, like a knot, far away from the trellis and up into themselves. The bright green fingertips of new growth poked out from under the snarl looking for a place to hold on to, clearly looking for the sun but unable to find anything but darkness. Those tender little things had wrapped themselves around the tangled old vines that were choking the life out of them. And so, I cut away the overgrowth, ripping out old and gently guiding the new to grab on to the security of the trellis, where they can be free to grow up, toward the light.

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As I did so, I realized the same thing happened in my heart. I’d been searching for peace in the darkness, grasping for it and finding it had been choked out by lies inside my own head–my perceived not enough-ness, the voice that whispers that everyone else has more, has better and is more, is better. Those old patterns of thinking returned with a vengeance one we moved here again, and were threatening once more to impede my ability to flourish in the place where I’m planted.

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I’m pulling out those old, snarled vines in my heart and making way for truth to take hold again. In the process, I’m looking to Paul as my guide. He learned what it means to be content in all circumstances–he didn’t instinctively know how to do it either. There’s grace for me–for all of us– in that. I’m not there, but I’m getting there, and I’m finding peace in the process. I am enough and this life is enough because Jesus is enough. Like Paul, I’m grabbing onto Jesus for support, because He gives me strength.

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Such lovely, life-giving things are right here, right now, in this place we find ourselves today. There is blessing and beauty and bounty in these moments, and I know it is a gift. It’s different than perhaps I expected, and I don’t know what’s next, exactly–but that’s ok. There’s peace here, plenty of it.

Love,

Scratch

Zucchini Hummus

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We have so much zucchini growing–enough to bake muffins and spin zoodles and grill and roast and more–and there’s plenty to share. The timing of it is perfect because I’m walking through some new dietary changes (Gah! Again!) and am leaning on the prolific veggie to help soften the blow of removing grains from my diet. (More on that another time.) Until then, I’ll say this: zucchini is a jack of all trades in the veggie world–it even knows how to make a truly delicious dip that my dad says he likes better than hummus. Even Emery (my two year old!) is a fan. Leave out the cumin & coriander and add 2 teaspoons of dried dill instead, or leave out the spices altogether and leave it plain. The decision is yours, of course. I won’t be bossy, but you should definitely serve this with grilled chicken and veggies.

Ingredients:
  • 2 medium zucchini (about 1 pound), peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 cup sesame tahini
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic (2 cloves if they’re large; 3 cloves if they’re on the smaller side)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
Method:

First, prep the zucchini. Cut off both ends of the zucchini and peel off the green skin. Next, chop what’s left into 1″ cubes (or so). Plunk the pieces into a high speed blender or food processer and pile the remaining ingredients on top. Close the lid and process on high until the zucchini is smooth and the ingredients have emulsified–a good minute or two, depending on the power of your machine.

The dip is ready at this point, but is a little runny. Refrigerate for a couple of hours for a thicker dip, or drizzle over grilled chicken and veggies immediately.

Allergy Friendly · Birthdays · Breakfast · Life with Littles · Motherhood

On Being Childish, Laying Bricks and Birthday Chocolate Chip Pancakes (GF/DF/NF)

er”When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child.

But when I grew up, I put away childish things.”

1 Corinthians 13:11 (NLT)

Dear Joey,

Yesterday morning I felt like a failure before my feet even touched the ground. I hadn’t even had a chance to come up short on anything yet, but there I was flirting with the lie that tells me to lift my hands in surrender anyway. The past few weeks have worn me down, sopping up the last few drops of my energy and leaving me very, very tired.

It was Mia’s fifth birthday, which is probably why I felt extra pressure right away in the morning. School mornings are loathsome evil things anyway, but throw in a little girl’s fifth birthday? A whole extra set of responsibilities and expectations greeted me before coffee even had a chance to be my cheerleader. For someone prone to perfectionism (like I am), I was overwhelmed before I started. I wanted to ignore responsibility and nestle deeper into bed, mumbling instructions to just pour the kids a bowl of cereal because I couldn’t bear the thought of making a birthday breakfast.

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Instead, I did what I always do: I stretched my legs, rubbed my eyes, and got up anyway because because that’s what moms do. We base being responsible on much more than a passing fancy. We show up and do the stuff we don’t really feel like doing because we love our kids more than our pillows. I trudged into the kitchen and pulled out my birthday morning breakfast arsenal and lined up the ingredients for the much-anticipated chocolate chip pancakes that only show up on someone’s birthday. And just when I was about to scoop out the flour, I realized my favorite recipe for gluten free pancakes was packed away in a box already, not to be unloaded until after our move next month. I hung my head in defeat.

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So much for birthday tradition, I thought, and for a moment I tried to convince myself that Mia would understand if I served a bowl of cereal this morning instead. She knows half the house is packed up already; surely, she’ll give me some grace. But the grown up inside whispered to the childish part of my soul: No, she won’t understand. She’s still a very young girl who is staggering through this transition too. She’s just as weary as you are, but uncertain too–and she’s counting on those pancakes to give her a little sense of stability.

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We have spent the past several years making these seemingly small, disjointed traditions a priority, laying the foundation to their lives–brick by small, seemingly insignificant brick–in hopes that as they will build their lives on the groundwork of love and stability. A happy birthday banner to greet them the morning; chocolate chip pancakes with a candle and the birthday song at breakfast; the You’re Special plate showing up again and again and again at the kitchen table, filled with the birthday child’s favorite foods; the anticipation of opening their four presents–something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read. These traditions somehow became part of their birthday vernacular, and they speak of them with the sort of excitement and awe I always hoped they would. This is what their little lives are built on, isn’t it? Not the stuff–the tradition. And what is tradition without consistency? And oh, how important consistency is. Consistency breeds trust, and trust demands consistency, otherwise things break.

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Get over yourself and make the pancakes anyway, I thought, and I managed to whisk together a batch of batter that worked just as well as the other recipe. Maybe all those years of making them trained me for the day I would need to make them without help, I though as I flipped the first few golden round beauties dotted with gooey chocolate. And no sooner had I thought all this than I got distracted and annoyed and ended up overcooking (ahem, burning) a pancake (or five) and made a snarky remark to Addie after her very innocent observation that the pancakes didn’t smell very good. I was irritated, yes–because the comment sounded rude to my already-bummed out self who felt like I had taken the high road to make the pancakes in the first place, and an imperfect messy batch is what I came up with. Why did I bother at all? I wondered. But I saw the sad look in Addie’s eye and realized she hadn’t meant to be rude; she was being observant, and her remark wasn’t my progress report. I scolded myself for my short temper and made it right with the girl (“You know, you’re right–they do smell a little funny. I sure hope they taste better than they smell!”), settled into my chair, and slurped down my coffee before any more damage was done.

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Mia beamed as we lit the candle and sang her birthday song, and she happily ate her sort-of-burned pancakes, and so did everyone else (even Emery, the kid who usually just picks the chocolate chips out of the pancakes, actually said, “MMM! Thas good, mama!“). The overcooked pancakes turned out to be a problem in my mind alone. And as I watched Mia tear open her presents with the purest sort of joy there is, I was glad I hadn’t let my perceived stress get in the way of her joy.

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Most days I’m pretty realistic, meaning I know most things don’t turn out the way my perfect ideals dictate they ought to. But yesterday I let my eyes focus on the imperfect pancakes, my own bed head, and the idea that I wasn’t a very good mom because I didn’t greet the morning with lipstick and balloons. I sat and thought about how lucky I am that the Goobies focused on fitting raspberries on top of their fingers and savoring the rare treat of chocolate for breakfast. I’m the grown up, but I was acting far more childish than my own kids. As I watched you usher the Goobies out the door and into their day, I was left wrestling with all this and asking the Lord to help me grow up, to help me be the grown up and model good behavior for these kids who are watching everything. And wouldn’t you know, not long after that, He gently (and pointedly) reminded me of 1 Corinthians 13: 11, and how it’s ok — good, even–to be childlike, but it’s time to give up my childish ways.

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I do my best to do my best at mothering, which means sometimes I have to remind myself that I’m the grown up and do things I just don’t want to do. Getting up in the morning is a struggle for me. Being kind in the morning is too. Walking through my day being others-focused is not always easy. Sometimes, I slip into that peevish childish behavior I was supposed to have put away once I grew up. But in a bout of grown up wisdom, the adult in me scolded the child and reminded me that these are the moments upon which lives are built. It was our little girl’s birthday and we don’t get a do-over. It didn’t have to be my idea of perfect to be Mia’s idea of perfect, and because Mia trusts me, and trust is built on consistency, I did the grown up thing and chose to set aside my childish behavior to lay another brick. And then, I got to enjoy Mia’s birthday with childlike abandon.

Love,

Scratch

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These pancakes are simple and yummy–even when they’re sort-of burned. Leave the chocolate chips out if you want a plain pancake, or add blueberries instead (that’s the way Joey likes them). In a pinch, they can be made with a premixed bag of gluten free flour blend that already contains xanthan gum and measures cup for cup (like Bob’s Red Mill or Arrowhead Mills), but the finished product will be a little thinner and turn out crepe-like pancakes instead of these fluffy beauties.

Ingredients:
  • 2 cups gluten free flour blend
  • 1/4 sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups unsweetened original rice milk (or almond milk, or other dairy alternative–or just dairy milk)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup refined coconut oil, melted (or other neutral tasting oil)
  • 3/4-1 cup chocolate chips, optional
Method:

Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl. Then, add the rice milk, eggs, and vanilla and stir well. Then drizzle the melted coconut oil into the batter, whisking as you go. (This is an important step because it keeps the coconut oil from hardening when it hits the batter.) Dump in the chocolate chips and give it one more good stir.

Over medium high heat, warm up a griddle and spray with coconut oil cooking spray. Scoop 1/4 cup of the batter onto the griddle at a time and cook until the edges have set and bubbles emerge on top. Flip gently and continue to cook until golden.

Allergy Friendly · Gluten Free · Growing and Changing · Love & Marriage · Pizza

On Golden State Basketball, and Golden Flax Pizza Crust

Dear Joey,

The Golden State Warriors are in the Western Conference Finals again, which of course means lots of things to lots of folks. To you, it means you caught one of their winning games live and in person during a season when they ended up moving on to the post season. To me (a girl who declined date-after-box-seat-date from you just a few years ago), watching those games with you means two things: first, people change. Second: pizza.

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Before we were dating, shoot–before we moved to this house–basketball didn’t interest me at all. It didn’t even tempt me to flirt with the idea of caring. The promise of box seats in Oracle Arena was wasted on me. But just a few short seasons later, I found myself married to you–a proven sports fanatic–and facing box seats of a different kind: seats in my own home that made me feel boxed out and left struggling because sports stole my husband.

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I made a decision just like the one I made seven years ago during the summer before Addie was born, the same year the Giants won the first of the three World Series titles they’ve won over the past several years. I didn’t care much for baseball at the time–not enough to watch every game, at least–but you did. I quickly realized I had a choice: I could plunk myself down on the opposite side of the couch and pout, hoping my mopey behavior would make you pity me enough to change the channel; I could hide myself away in the other room, fuming at menfolk for loving ball games more than their wives; or I could snuggle up to you and ask you to teach me about the game, and then listen and learn.

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Happily, I chose to listen and learn, and the more I understood about the game, the more I enjoyed watching it. Knowing there was an end to the season helped; I knew we could move on to something a little more me by the time Addie was born (because the baseball season ends before November). I enjoyed a little bit of control over the remote again that November (and for a few more after it) until sports continued to dominate our nighttime line up well into November and beyond, all because someone named Curry was doing something worth watching (whatever that meant). I rolled my eyes and felt a little defeated–and not very excited to listen and learn again. But I did, and you patiently fielded my questions, answering when you could and digging a little deeper when you could not. Now, nearly four years later, not much evokes memories so splendid of date nights at home than the idea of Warriors basketball and pizza.

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Pizza poses a problem around here though. I mean, clearly. Pizza is bread and cheese–you know, two of the three no-no’s around here that collectively make eating out a nightmare. Toss in the cost of ordering over-priced gluten free and dairy free pizza (both the expense and the risk are prohibitive, in my opinion), along with the time it takes to shop for and make homemade gluten free and/or dairy free pizza, all while trying to keep our diet consistent with that whole Hot Mama Diet thing, and suddenly we’ve got a real problem got a meal most folks take for granted. Pizza felt inaccessible. Except it’s pizza, for crying out loud! Depriving my you of the stuff at game time just felt fundamentally wrong, so I set out to make things right.

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Difficult as it may be to negotiate the Hot Mama way of life with allergy and budget constraints, it definitely has its perks. Were I not gluten free, and were we low carb a lot of the time, I guarantee I would not have even thought to use golden flax meal as a pizza crust.  True: we will never brag that this is THE BEST pizza crust ever. It is made from golden flax meal and eggs, after all. But it is the best budget friendly, awesome cracker-turned-pizza crust that allows us to eat Hot Mama pizza on short notice. Prebake a crust or two, stash them in the freezer, then load it up with yummy toppings and bake it again until its golden and bubbly. Emery even likes it topped with his beloved Daiya dairy free Mozzarella Style Shreds.  (And ok, to be fair, the girls don’t love it the way they enjoy more traditional pizza crusts made out gluten free flour, but they eat it just the same, saying it’s sort of like eating pizza on a cracker. Touche.)

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This measly little pizza crust played a big role in bringing me around to basketball though because I used it to butter you up before I fired question after question at you. Somehow you didn’t seem to mind them as long as you had something good to snack on between answers. That’s why this golden pizza crust goes hand in hand with watching the Warriors play basketball. Not because it’s the best gluten free crust I’ve ever made. (It’s not.) Not because it gives me the freedom to plop down on the couch and make pizza appear magically, as if from nowhere. (It doesn’t.) It’s a big deal because it’s quick and easy, it’s inexpensive, it’s flexible for food allergies, and it makes a dynamite BBQ Chicken Pizza that makes you feel like you’re not missing anything by watching the game at home with me, and not in those fancy box seats at the arena.

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Tuesday night when we finally got all those Goobies settled into their beds after an evening of playing the role of proud and involved parents at her school Open House, I was just as anxious to click on Game 2 against the Spurs and munch on that BBQ Chicken Pizza as you were (who am I?) because there’s no better view of the game than the one from our own couch.

img_5944-e1495149087449.jpgGolden Flax Pizza Crust

This recipe is essentially a trimmed down version of the Trim Healthy Mama recipe for Golden Flax Bread, a bread-like alternative that I never quite got on board with. While their Golden Flax “bread” is sort of eggy in texture, this one is not at all. By rolling the dough out, it becomes something like a giant cracker, and everyone knows that cheese clearly goes hand in hand with crackers. The texture is … different. But it is good all the same. If you’re watching your carbohydrates and still want a budget (or nut-free!) friendly pizza crust, give this one a try.

Ingredients:
  • 2 cups golden flax meal
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 T baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
Method:

Start by preheating your oven to 350°F. Then, spray a round pizza pan (or cookie sheet) with nonstick coconut oil spray.

Next, measure all ingredients together in a large bowl. Let the mixture sit for five minutes. The flax meal with absorb most of the liquid, thickening it into a spongy dough-like mass. At this point, plunk half the dough onto a greased cookie sheet. Lay a piece of wax paper on top of it and roll the dough out until it is about 1/4 inch thick. Remove the wax paper (carefully peel back the wax paper–it sticks if you yank it off to quickly!) and put the crust in the oven. Bake for 12-14 minutes, or until the edges are well set (golden and crisp, but not at all burned). Using a stainless steel spatula, carefully loosen the crust from the bottom of the pan, starting at the outside edge of the crust and working around the circle, gently lifting until the crust is completely separated from the pan. Place the crust on a wire rack and cool.

To top the pizza: Spread sauce, cheese, and all the pizza fixings your heart could desire on top and bake for another 8-10 minutes or so, until cheese is melted, bubbly, and golden.

To freeze the crust: Once the crust is cooled, wrap it well with plastic wrap, making sure each edge is sealed completely. Store in the freezer until ready to use.